When I wrote back I let them know they did not meet my criteria but out of curiosity I also asked why they were looking into using donor embryos and if they lived near where I was vacationing at that moment. Here's what they told me (again, I have their permission to reprint this):
We were basically told that Erin's egg quality and
quantity were diminished at this point and the best option was either for me to get pregnant (which would also be difficult since I have polycystic ovaries) or to do IVF with egg/embryo donation.
After much thought and consideration, we both decided it would be best for our family to choose embryo donation. We are so excited at the possibility of having children and feel like this option is a fresh start. We actually left our clinic yesterday excited about the possibility but also with concern about finding donors (especially because we are lesbians).
Our other concern regarding this was the fact that our clinic only does anonymous donations and we both have a strong family connection and would want our child(ren) to have the chance to have that same opportunity with their biological family. We chose an open sperm donor for this reason.
We would love to have two or more children and having biological siblings would be fantastic! Please ask any questions you have, we are more than willing to answer honestly and sincerely~
Jenny & Erin
Well that was a funny co-incidence. Their home area, which I gleaned from the name of their clinic, was in the same county where my wife grew up and where all of her relatives still live.
These women were different in every way from the other folks who had written to us. Instead of listing the increasingly desperate ways they had tried to conceive before finally having to accept the last choice option of embryo donation, this couple was positive about that option and had embraced it quickly.
It must have initially been a deep disappointment to give up the dream of their own genetic child. What a rip-off for a woman in her late 20's to find out that her eggs would make it hard to conceive naturally. Who expects that at such a young age? I would have been angry and frustrated. Yet this couple's realism and positive attitude signalled to me that their concern was having a baby to love, not having a baby who looked like them regardless of the costs.
In considering embryo donation they took the child's viewpoint, accepting that all children want to know as much as possible about where they come from and would naturally want to know their genetic roots if possible.
Delightfully, they had addressed the fact that we were looking for Jewish donors without resorting to the formula we had heard from all other Christian recipients: "We're not Jewish but our neighbor's dentist's third grade teacher was and he promised to tell us all about it."
These women had a refreshingly healthy approach to embryo donation. The fact that they were not Jewish meant I really could not consider them for my embryos, but I found myself wanting to know more about them. They interested me but I felt even more strongly as I considered them that I only wanted Jewish recipients. If I asked them more questions perhaps I'd find they were strong believers in something I abhor like "spare the rod and spoil the child" or maybe there was a medical reason they could probably not carry a pregnancy to term.
If so, I could put my curiosity to rest having given them a fair shot. And since our sperm donor is not an ID release donor they might change their minds about considering us. I decided to put our negatives out on the table; maybe they would bow out. In case they didn't, I asked for a photo of the two of them. A lot of potential recipients had sent a photo of their families. I found that these shots revealed a lot. So, half hoping it would be a deal-breaker for them, I wrote them back:
Hi Jenny and Erin,
Thanks for the info. Hope your Thanksgiving was good.
I am sorry the IUI did not work. If I understand correctly, Erin has decreased ovarian reserve and Jenny has PCOS. What did the clinic say about pregnancy for each of you? I hope you don't mind these questions. They are, of necessity, extremely intrusive!
I was wondering what you do for a living and if I could see a recent photo of the two of you.
Also, our sperm donor is anonymous and not an identity release donor. Not sure if you are interested in having only the sperm donor profile/essay/medical history to share with any children you might have.
This couple's candor and positive attitude was so refreshing. But they still were not Jewish. My email would be a deal-breaker if they didn't want an anonymous sperm donor, or perhaps their photo would reveal to me that they had antennae. Or maybe they each worked 147 hours per week as corporate lawyers and shouldn't be considering having kids.
I had previously found it a lot easier to turn down potential recipients who did not meet our criteria. But there was something compelling about these women. Perhaps I had given them a reason to say "no", or maybe they would give me one. I waited to see what they would say next.